Why Are Emergency Visits Rising Under Obamacare?

What is ObamaCare? Otherwise known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare is an American law geared towards making changes in the American Health Care System. The act aims to protect Americans from unreasonable health costs as well as provide them with rights, privileges and benefits so that they may be able to avail of health care assistance and coverage. President Obama as well as other individuals who back ObamaCare projected that with the passing of this law, people would no longer have to pay for high emergency room trips, which is common for those who do not have healthcare coverage. They also hoped that such reform would prove useful to everyone involved. Although many people think that the law was signed and proposed by President Barack Obama, it was actually already in the works long before he was sworn in to the position. The law incorporates his name because it was signed during his presidency.


                 Despite the enactment of ObamaCare and opposite to its projected outcome, emergency room visits continue to rise – a trend that is seen in many American hospitals. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, the volume of emergency room patients is so large that some hospitals have started boarding people in the ER until a room becomes available for them. This observation contradicts the speculation of many ObamaCare advocates that once individuals are given access to health providers and good health coverage, the number of ER visits will drop. But why is this so? Health Care analysts have given some reasons for this unanticipated occurrence.

                First, it is possible that newly insured individuals are not accepted by doctors and other health care providers because the latter do not accept Medicaid (which is what these people have under ObamaCare). Medicaid offers lower reimbursement compared to private insurance companies so doctors are not too keen on accepting people who have this coverage.

                Second, the ratio between insured people and primary care doctors has significantly changed. Now that more people are insured, primary care doctors simply cannot accommodate all of them. Even when doctors and clinics accept Medicaid, the volume of insured people who go to them have become so overwhelming and waiting time for scheduled appointments can be as long as two weeks. People who wish to be seen by a doctor do not find the waiting time appealing. To buttress this idea, professionals have predicted that by the year 2020, United States will need 20,000 more primary care doctors to attend to the needs of its people.

                Third, with the continuous fluctuation of the American economy, hospitals, clinics and other medical establishments continue to close hence affecting both newly insured and those who have been long-standing patients of the said places. Without having anywhere else to go, they are turning to emergency rooms.

                Fourth, there is a likelihood that those who are newly insured actually have more complicated and potentially life threatening cases which can only be dealt with in emergency rooms.

Emergency Visits Rising Under Obamacare

                Fifth, primary care offices are open during regular business hours and people may not have access to them. For instance, those who come from low-income households cannot leave work during daytime. Hence, their only option would be to visit emergency rooms later on when their time permits since emergency rooms are open 24/7.

                Sixth, according to USA Today, even when many people are now insured, their years of being uninsured have programmed them to go to emergency rooms despite the higher cost. This is because they do not have regular doctors and have not been educated about the possible alternatives that they could take advantage of if their condition is not fatalistic.

                Depending on the person’s perspective, the above reasons can be hilarious, scary or frustrating. But whatever is the person’s view, everything boils down to a single concern. Emergency rooms are not equipped with the capacity to regularly deal with large volumes of patients. A sudden seasonal surge might be alright but if the number of ER visits continues to grow consistently, this would pose a problem. Doctors and nurses alike will eventually become burnt out which can lead to them resigning from their posts. If medical professionals engage in mass resignations, there will be more imbalances in the medical professional and patient ratio. If less people work in the field, waiting time can be stretched longer. The end result then would be higher mortality rate. When this happens, what would people do?

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About Ferland Manuel

Dr, Manuel Ferland is health care specialist,